Security On The Runway
Don’t forget to focus on security at the perimeter
- By Jonathan Murray
- Jan 01, 2013
Security in airports has always been a high priority, with high visibility.
However, the perimeter surrounding the airport is still, in too
many cases, neglected.
If an airport has full-fence coverage, it is usually an inadequate
fence, without any detection capability. Airports are investing billions
of dollars on the obvious security measures we see as members of the travelling
public, such as screening, cameras and X-ray machines. Yet the fastest way to
the runway and airplanes—the perimeter—is often left open.
Terrorist threats at airports have almost become the standard by which we measure
threat scenarios, but what about random threats?
In July 2012, a man in Utah scaled a razor-wire topped perimeter fence at the
St. George Municipal Airport using just a rug, attempting to steal an idle 50-passenger
jet. Fortunately, this plane never left the ground, but it did raise obvious
concerns about airport perimeter security.
Another example is that of a truck driver working in an airport’s segregated
area who mistakenly drove in the wrong direction into the runway. This scenario
could easily occur and turn an otherwise minor security violation into a catastrophic
safety event. Such mistakes at airports can be the relatively small triggers
that cause huge fires, resulting in a massive, negative, worldwide effect.
As we know, any security chain is no stronger than its weakest link. So, each
segment and sector of the perimeter must be secure enough to ensure the entire
perimeter is protected.
Concept of Operations
Typically, security specialists recommended starting with a full security concept,
no Band-Aid approach to weak elements of the site. This step requires professionals
to analyze threats and match them to the right concept of operations
(CONOPS) by defining areas demanding high-security versus lower-security
priority sections, identifying the location of the command and control center,
determining whether more than one is needed and identifying where first responders
are located and how long it will take them to respond to an alarm. If
the perimeter has been breached, how long will it take to respond effectively and
intercept an intruder?
Once these elements have been defined, a tactical plan can be developed to use
the best combination of technologies and processes for each section of the perimeter,
and these can be tailored to the perimeter intrusion detection system (PIDS).
The Recommended Solution
The simple answer to the challenge of perimeter security
at an airport—or any similar critical perimeter—
is a combination of smart fences and barriers,
supported by a mix of long-range surveillance cameras
and smart cameras equipped with outdoor-ready
intelligent video analytics (IVA). Last, and equally
important, is to have in place a fast and responsive
mobile force with a centralized physical security information
management (PSIM) system.
Additional sensors and tools may be needed to
close specific gaps unique to each airport. Ideally,
an airport should have a minimum of a two-layered
PIDS solution installed. Some airports, such as the
Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India—
choose four layers for better confidence.
Taut wire, a hybrid system of sensors weaved into a
barbed wire fence, is the Cadillac of fences. This is the
only fence that, in all weather conditions, has guaranteed
performance with demonstrated high probability
of detection (POD) and an almost zero false alarm
rate (FAR). This is an excellent choice of technology
where false alarms cannot be compromised. It can
serve as a stand-alone barrier with no additional verification
tools, such as cameras, although additional
layers will increase performance.
Fence-mounted sensors. A variety of technologies
support these applications, including microphonic
copper cable, fiber optic sensors, vibration sensors and
even seismic sensors. All of these systems are ideal addons
to existing fences because, in the majority of instance,
most of the investment has already been done.
Customers must be aware that fence-mounted
sensor performance requires, in most cases, a secondary
verification tool. Performance is not always
guaranteed and sometimes depends on the quality
of the installed fence. The same sensor will perform
completely different on a loose fence versus a rigid,
tightly installed fence. In the case of airports covering
a huge landscape, sensor use may create a quite a few
nuisances and false alarms per day. Some of the available
sensors can locate an intruder within a sector to
the level of a few meters. For airports, this ranging
feature is usually not critical because the sites are relatively
open and flat, and thus, with the inherent delay
caused by a fence, typically 100 to 150 meters resolution
of detection is plenty.
Buried cable sensors. This is a virtual fence implemented
by a smart cable buried less than one foot
underground. The cable creates an invisible electromagnetic
field, capable of detecting any intruder entering
that narrow virtual corridor. This is not an inexpensive
solution; however, it is an ideal solution for
places where a fence cannot be installed, whether for
aesthetic reasons or environmental concerns. The fact
that it is a concealed detection makes it unbeatable
and ideal for protecting the internal quarters within
an airport where a “fenceless” fence is desired.
Buried cable also is an ideal solution to protect
aircraft parking areas and hangars, where the tarmac
needs to be trenched for creating a virtual fence and
where a real fence cannot be erected. Some of the solutions
in the market can pinpoint the intruder along
the corridor with a resolution of a few meters. This
may be important, taking into account that this virtual
fence does not delay the intruder.
Microwaves. This sensor is another type of virtual
fence based on electromagnetic transmitters above the
ground that create an invisible detection beam. Any
intruder going through the field will disturb the beam
and cause an alarm. Two types of microwaves are
available: bi-static, composed of a transmitter on one
side and a receiver on the other side, and mono-static,
in which the same unit does both. A single pair of bistatic
microwaves can cover 100 to 300 meters.
The technology is easy to install but requires constant
grass cutting. It is ideal for places that may be
open to restricted traffic, whether a temporary basis,
where infrastructure construction is underway, or for
longer term. Like any other virtual fence, it misses the
deterrence and delay function.
Smart CCTV. Outdoor cameras, equipped with
outdoor intelligent video analytics (IVA), are an excellent
sensor to protect and complement every perimeter
as well as the internal sections and infrastructure
within the airport, especially if designed by outdoor
experts with professional outdoor algorithms.
Airport security decision makers need to recognize and
emphasize the importance of an integrated solution
that marries everything into one coherent, manageable
system. All security systems depend on human intervention
and therefore should be based on the overall
reliable alarms, notification and situation awareness.
Given the critical nature of any event at an airport,
quick reaction and immediate response depends on
the quality of the head end—the command and control
center. Today’s PSIM applications are at the heart
of any real-time decision process.
PSIM connects and integrates all sensors and correlates
multiple inputs—cameras, gate control, access
control, PIDS sensors and other applications — into
a single synchronized display. A graphical information
systems (GIS) engine is used as a platform to arrange
layers of data, ensuring accurate location and
cross reference between the fielded sensors, the maps
and the mobile forces.
Securing the worldwide air traffic is a “game”
that requires full teamwork—intelligence, counterterror
experts, airport authorities, airline personnel
and more. Security managers must change
their focus from increasing the perception of protection
with highly visible screening measures
and focus on creating a complete and
functional security solution.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Security Today.